Nevada's quarterback competition just added competitor, and this one comes with a famous name.
Malik Henry, a former four-star prospect who began his career at Florida State, is walking on with the Wolf Pack and will join the team later this month, Nevada head coach Jay Norvell said on Tuesday's episode of NSN Daily. Henry last played for Independence (Kan.) Community College where he was a featured player of Netflix's "Last Chance U" documentary that told the story of a team of players looking for second chances.
Ranked the No. 17 prospect in the 2016 recruiting class by ESPN (and 34th by Scout and 49th by 247Sports), Henry opted for Florida State over offers from Notre Dame, USC, Tennessee, Texas, UCLA, Wisconsin and Arizona State, among others. At Florida State, he was briefly suspended in August 2016 for an unspecified violation of team rules and never appeared in a game for the Seminoles before transferring in December 2016.
The 6-foot-4, 185-pounder moved on to Independence, where he completed 132-of-245 passes (53.9 percent) for 1,383 yards, 10 touchdowns and eight interceptions in 2017. After not signing with an FBS school, Henry returned to Independence this season, completing 19-of-43 passes (44.2 percent) for 237 yards, one touchdown and three interceptions in two games.
Henry, who also was kicked out of IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., one of three high schools programs he attended, is from Inglewood, Calif., and is familiar with Wolf Pack wide receivers coach Eric Scott, a long-time youth coach in Los Angeles.
"We have a lot of connections," Norvell said. "One of the great things about our coaching staff is we have kids who have worked in youth programs. Eric Scott worked with so many kids in youth programs in Los Angeles, so he knows so many of these guys and people who coach them. I love junior-college quarterbacks because those kids have kind of been scarred a little bit, they've been humbled. That's kind of what happened with Malik. He's a super talented kid who made an early commitment to Florida State and probably if he had to do it over again he probably would have made a difference decision."
"He spent some time at junior college and probably has one last shot to get his career corrected and we're going to give that. We wanted to build an environment here at Nevada where we can train quarterbacks, where we can develop them fundamentally but also spiritually and mentally. I think that's what he needs. He need support. He needs a coaching staff that will love him and teach him how to do things the right way and in a system he can grow and develop, and that's something we feel like we have here at Nevada."
While it could have been creative editing, Henry spent a good chunk of time on Last Chance U bickering with coaches, including profanity-spewing head coach Jason Brown; bumping heads with teammates; not always running the play that was called; and getting penalized for taunting teammates. In August, Henry told Variety.com that Last Chance U didn't fully tell the story of his relationship with Brown.
“I think Greg Whiteley, the director, did a great job,” Henry told Variety. “I just wish we they would have shown the other side of me and Coach Brown’s relationship just a little more, because I feel like more people would have realized that he is more like an older brother, father-figure type.
“They put in a lot of my trash talking. That’s stuff that fans and people watching the game wouldn’t hear unless I was mic’d up.”
For Nevada, the addition of Henry is a low-risk, high-reward proposition because he's paying his own way to walk on. Norvell didn't want to draw comparisons between Henry and Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes, the presumptive NFL MVP as a first-year starter in the league, but he said they have similarities.
"He was a great baseball player," Norvell said of Henry. "I just believe in athleticism at the quarterback position. If you look at the great team in 2010 that Coach (Chris) Ault had, he had a transcendent quarterback (Colin Kaepernick). That's the thing that can take us to an elite status here. We love what we've done here with our quarterback, but we think we can play at a high, high level at quarterback here. We need to do a better job of protecting the football. One of the things this year is we had a lot of young offensive players playing skill positions, which is where we had turnovers offensively. We need a quarterback who can take us to the next level and not only read our progressions and throw the ball accurately, but a guy who can bring a little bit something extra to the table with his feet.
"Obviously everybody in football is talking about Patrick Mahomes. Patrick Mahomes is from Whitehouse, Texas. He's from East Texas. I've recruited that school a long time. He's a former baseball player. His dad was a professional baseball player. To be able to move and play and throw the football from baseball-type situations is kind of what today's game is pared for. Malik has those skills."
Henry was listed as a three-star recruit out of junior college with interest but no offers from Oregon, Nebraska, Ole Miss and Memphis. At only 20 years old, Nevada sees a lot of untapped potential in Henry, who will have two seasons of eligibility with the Wolf Pack.
"He has been humbled, and I think he wanted to come back on the West Coast and have an opportunity to resurrect his career," Norvell said. "We're going to give him that opportunity. He is coming as a walk-on, which means he has a lot to prove. He'll certainly have an opportunity just like Ben Putman to earn a scholarship, so we're excited about that, and we'll have some scholarships to give, too."
With three-year starter Ty Gangi departing, Henry joins a quarterback competition that includes seniors Cristian Solano and Griffin Dahn, sophomore Kaymen Cureton, redshirt freshman Carson Strong and true freshman Austin Kirksey, who will join Nevada this month. Solano and Strong are considered the front-runners for the job.